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Most Men Taking Bodybuilding Supplements Don’t Know They Can Harm Fertility

FRIDAY, Dec. 1, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Bodybuilders are largely unaware that the protein supplements they use to bulk up might harm their fertility, a brand new study shows.



4 out of 5 male gym enthusiasts (79%) said they use protein supplements as a part of their fitness plan, the poll found.

But only 14% had considered how those supplements — which contain high levels of the feminine hormone estrogen — might impact their fertility, researchers found.

“An excessive amount of female hormone could cause problems with the quantity and quality of sperm that a person can produce,” explained lead researcher Meurig Gallagher, an assistant professor studying infertility on the University of Birmingham within the U.K.

Men taking these protein supplements also is perhaps unintentionally dosing themselves with steroids, Gallagher added.

“Many protein supplements that might be bought have been found to be contaminated by anabolic steroids, which may cause reduced sperm count, shrunken testicles and erectile dysfunction, amongst other things,” Gallagher said.

For this study, Gallagher and his colleagues surveyed 152 avid gym-goers. They found that greater than half (52%) of male participants had thought of their fertility prior to being asked.

“We found that men are genuinely inquisitive about their fertility when prompted, but that they don’t give it some thought on their very own – likely because societally people still consider fertility as a ‘female issue’ and [incorrectly] imagine that men’s fertility doesn’t change throughout their lifetimes,” researcher Jackson Brown, a professor in reproductive biology at Birmingham, said in a university news release.

About 28% of male respondents said the advantages of gym routines and supplements were more necessary to them than fertility, while 38% disagreed.

The findings were published recently within the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

“Infertility is an issue of accelerating concern, affecting 1 in 6 people worldwide, based on the World Health Organization,” Gallagher said. “Globally, there is restricted understanding of the incontrovertible fact that men contribute to half of those cases of infertility.”

“While people were aware of the issues related to anabolic steroid use, only a few understood that gym protein supplementation can have negative effects,” Gallagher added.

Brown stressed that the findings don’t mean bodybuilders should abandon the gym.

“It’s necessary that individuals don’t see this as a reason to not be healthy or get exercise — but people should try to educate themselves about any type of supplementation they take, whether that’s protein, vitamins or the rest,” he noted.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more concerning the health risks of protein powders.

SOURCE: University of Birmingham, news release, Nov. 29, 2023

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